City will have two TEX Rail stations and create TIFs to pay its share of costs.
The city has officially joined the TEX Rail project by approving an agreement to participate in the planned commuter rail. City leaders said they believe that the stations planned for Iron Horse Boulevard and the Smithfield area will be catalysts for development on nearby property, besides giving residents a transportation alternative. The rail line will link downtown Fort Worth and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. City Councilman Tom Lombard compared the rail line to the city’s opening of the Iron Horse Golf Course in 1989 and to the city’s extensive trail system. “I think this is a big, big game-changer for us,” Lombard said.
Tarrant County’s population is expected to increase from 1.8 million residents in 2010 to 2.06 million residents in 2020 and 2.3 million residents in 2030, according to the Region C Water Planning Group. “Building more roads to address congestion is impractical, unsustainable, cost-prohibitive, and none of us like sitting in that traffic,” Mayor Oscar Trevino said at a recent City Council meeting. “A lot of people don’t think it’s going to be here. That rail is going to be running through North Richland Hills, and we deserve stations on it.”
The city will pay for its contribution to the project, overseen by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, by creating tax increment finance (TIF) districts, or something similar, around the station areas and using TIF revenue from the city’s Home Town NRH area. TIFs typically take the tax revenue gleaned from a property’s added value from development and use the money for public projects. The rail project is not expected to impact the city’s property tax rate, city officials said. The 27-mile TEX Rail line will begin at the T&P Station in Fort Worth and continue northeast through Haltom City, North Richland Hills and Grapevine and on to Terminal B at DFW Airport. The North Richland Hills stations will be at 6416 Smithfield Road and near Iron Horse Boulevard, a half-mile north of Northeast Loop 820, according to Transportation Authority and city documents.
Commuter rail line is expected to begin transporting passengers in 2018 and cost more than $800 million. The money is expected to come from federal, county and local dollars. Participating communities were expected to approve a half-cent sales tax to cover their share of the project. But North Richland Hills is at its state-mandated 2 percent cap, with 1 percent of its sales tax revenue going to the general fund and half-cent sales taxes going to crime control and parks and recreation. The TIF represents a compromise and allows the city to join the regional effort, city officials said. The City Council voted 7-0 July 13 to allow City Manager Mark Hindman to enter into an agreement with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to allow the city to participate in the TEX Rail project.